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New work models and technology disruption call for innovative regulation aligned with the needs of workers. Adequate safety nets can provide workers with (at least) short-term buffers against periods of unemployment and skills that have become obsolete. These crucial protections help ensure human dignity in the face of the large-scale economic and social disruption triggered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, according to the International Labour Organization, only 29% of the global population currently enjoys social security coverage that is adequate for weathering labour market disruption. More than 220 million people do not hold citizenship in the country where they live - a group equivalent in size to the fifth-largest nation in the world by population - denying them many labour protections enjoyed by their peers - according to a study published in Oxford Development Studies. Globally, only 55% of migrants receive social protection in their country of residence but have no access if they leave that country, 23% have access and portability, and 22% lack any at all, according to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (in some cases unilateral social protection programmes issued by origin countries mitigate non-transferability). Transnational social protections could help mitigate the vulnerability of workers, and of entire healthcare systems in host countries. It will be critical for countries to carefully review their existing safety nets, in order to prevent labour market changes from worsening inequality - and to better ensure the efficiency and utility of worker benefits. Current systems vary in terms of balancing the responsibility for workforce protection between governments and employers. Government-provided social safety nets, where they exist, can be outdated. Meanwhile employer-based insurance systems for health, unemployment, and retirement may not be well suited for an era when workers no longer remain with a single employer throughout much of their careers. Bolstering social protections could aid the switch from informal to formal employment for many workers, and a United Nations report has suggested that there has been a rapid expansion of social assistance programs in developing countries in the last 15 years, including non-contributory pensions and employment guarantee schemes. The development of new instruments and new incentives could lead to greater related innovation. Indicators of the success of these tools may include the ability to ensure minimum income security, and to guarantee human dignity. And a key question for any policy-maker looking to reform existing approaches will be how to introduce efficiencies while re-structuring benefits systems.

Workers Protection


New organisations of work